have emerged the
the most massive
are seared with
Although we are all born with Souls, not all of us know how to fully
embody them and integrate them into our human experience.
The truth is that in our
Ego-centrically rather than Soul-centrically...
Mystics, saints, and
shamans throughout history have referred to our struggle
as humans in different ways - but they all pointed to the need for
us to consciously grow into our divine potential.
One of these people was Saint John of the Cross, a Spanish
monk who coined the term "Dark Night of the Soul" ("Noche
Oscura" the name of one of his poems) based on his own
These days, the concept of the Dark Night of the Soul has
come to be used in a much broader way.
What was once a term
reserved for people actively going through a Spiritual Journey, now
has come to easily label anything ranging from a few bad days and a
period of depression to the death of a loved one.
But what really is
The Dark Night of The Soul?
First, we'll start with a basic definition:
What is the Dark
Night of the Soul?
The Dark Night of the Soul is a period of utter spiritual
desolation, disconnection, and emptiness in which one feels
totally separated from the Divine.
Those who experience
the Dark Night feel completely lost, hopeless, and consumed with
melancholy. The Dark Night of the Soul can be likened to severe
7 Omens That
Herald the Dark Night of the Soul
I am a forest,
and a night of dark trees:
but he who is
not afraid of my darkness,
will find banks
full of roses under my cypresses.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
difference between the dark night and depression?" you may still
Even back in the 16th
Saint John of the Cross himself was
at great pains to distinguish the Dark Night from mere
After all, the symptoms of the Dark Night of the Soul are not that
different from depression.
But while depression is
psychological/neurological/biological, the Dark Night heralds a
deeply occurring change within known as spiritual transformation.
Here are 7 "omens" that you might be going through a Dark Night
of the Soul:
You feel a deep
sense of sadness, which often verges on despair (this
sadness is often triggered by the state of your life,
humanity, and/or the world as a whole)
You feel an acute
sense of unworthiness
You have the
constant feeling of being lost or "condemned" to a life of
suffering or emptiness
You possess a
painful feeling of powerlessness and hopelessness
Your will and
self-control is weakened, making it difficult for you to act
You lack interest
and find no joy in things that once excited you
You crave for the
loss of something intangible; a longing for a distant place
or to "return home" again
The ultimate difference
between depression and the Dark Night of the Soul is
that depression is usually self-centric, whereas the Dark Night is
philosophical in nature and is accompanied by existential
reflections such as,
"Why am I here?" and
"What is my purpose?"
Also, when depression
ends, not much changes in your life in terms of your beliefs,
values, and habits.
However, when the Dark
Night of the Soul ends, everything in your life is transformed,
and life becomes wondrous again...
to live is as intense as ever,
and though my
heart is broken,
hearts are made
to be broken:
that is why God
sends sorrow into the world…
To me, suffering
seems now a sacramental thing,
that makes those
whom it touches holy…
in life coarsens the soul.
Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dąbrowski coined a term
Positive disintegration which views tension and anxiety as
necessary in the process of spiritual and psychological maturing.
In other words, it is the
friction within us that causes the mirror of our Souls to be
polished enough for us to glimpse our True Nature.
I often hear people speak of the Dark Night as some kind problem
they have to "fix," or something they,
"went through a long
time ago, that is now over, thank God."
But what these people
thought was a Dark Night may have just been a glimpse of the
darkness within them, especially when they speak egotistically about
it as if it were a badge of honor.
A true Dark Night of the Soul leaves a long-lasting impact on
you - it changes you completely.
When you exit a Dark
Night, you will discover that something is always taken away from
you (for the better), such as,
Ananda Coomaraswamy put it this way,
"No creature can
attain a higher grade of nature without ceasing to exist."
Have you ever seen a
butterfly begin to emerge from its cocoon?
It must struggle in order
to strengthen its wings. If someone frees the butterfly from its
cocoon prematurely, it won't be able to fly because its crucial
tempering stage will not have occurred.
The same is true for trees. Trees need wind in order to build their
structural strength to stay upright.
Your Dark Night of the Soul is your wind, your cocoon;
it is an
ego death whereby you shed the ego
that prevents you from embodying your Soul.
If you try to avoid the hard work of, as Ananda put it, "ceasing to
exist," or breaking down your old confining structures, you won't
have what it takes to truly embody your essential nature.
The Dark Night
and The Spiritual Awakening Process
As humans, the prospect of change is avoided and resisted because it
is unknown territory.
Therefore, we fear it.
For this reason, we require a
There are three ways that Spiritual Awakenings can occur:
the first is at
the hands of wise spiritual teachers
the second is
through the spiritual drive of soulfully mature people
the third is
spontaneously due to life experience...
arrive in a number of ways:
The Dark Night is a
herald, an omen, of change.
It lets us know that we
can't continue living the way we have been living. There is no
awakening in life, to life,
without first seeing and acknowledging our existing disappointment.
Acknowledging our disappointment means becoming aware of the deeply
held sense of "incompletion" that we all carry; it means becoming
aware that something is desperately missing from our lives. Those
that have experienced, or are currently experiencing a Dark Night of
the Soul will know that something very fundamental at a core level
is out of focus or completely lacking in their lives.
Those going through a
Dark Night will sense that so much more is possible in their lives,
even though they don't exactly know what that "so much more" is.
One of the common reasons why Dark Nights occur and are prolonged is
due to mystical experiences, or short glimpses of the divine, which
spiritual teachers often refer to as "grace" or samādhi.
Soon afterward, the
person "loses" this experience, and is plunged into unhappiness
This is called the
"halo effect," "afterglow" or what the Sufis speak of as the
"sobriety of union."
Why does the "halo
It happens because of the
stark contrast between one's rediscovered Divine Self and the return
to one's disconnected and tormented Ego self. To the spiritually
mature person, the halo effect sets the stage for a future
encounter with the transcendental, with 'God'...
However, for the less prepared seeker, the glimpse into the Divine
stirs up even more distress as old habits, obsessions, thoughts,
and behaviors reappear...
Now, such a person
realizes that he has a long, complex, and demanding task of
purification and transformation ahead of him.
Spiritual Alchemy, there is a word
for this experience called "solutio"; putting all the hard stuff in
the waters of reflection (your ideas, your habits, etc.), where it
dissolves and breaks apart, shows itself for what it is, and gives
you the opportunity for a fresh start.
The solution to one's suffering and disconnection from the divine
realm can be any method of cutting away, dislodging, disintegrating
and clearing old pieces of your life so that you can begin afresh.
Essentially, the Dark night is a process of shedding
away your old home and going in search of a new one. Understandably,
this process requires a huge leap of faith into the unknown which
can come at quite a sudden and frightening pace.
If you think you might be going through this journey, it's important
to understand that many of us have been where you are. Many people
still are. There is no map, there is only the flickering
luminescence of your Soul to light the way.
I hope our work can encourage, embolden and support you if you are
undertaking this descent into your Underworld.
Dark Night of the Soul
While every experience of the Dark Night of the Soul is different,
the one common thread is that it is a path of initiation...
You are in the dark
so that you can understand what Light is.
You are disconnected
so that you can know what connection is.
You are lost so that
you can find your way back Home.
If these explanations of
the Dark Night don't resonate with you, please go ahead and discard
I'm not here to tell you
what the Dark Night of the Soul should mean because ultimately
you must figure that out for yourself. You need to be the
one to make meaning out of your experience. I can only offer my own
If you have read up until this point you are probably looking for
additional help, and that is completely understandable. However, the
Dark Night of the Soul is a complex and profound experience and it
cannot be solved by reading a "six-step" formula or bullet list...
What I can offer you,
however, is a simple meditation which may provide you with some
level of relief.
When you can dredge up enough energy (I know how exhausting and
depleting the Dark Night can be), try experimenting with the
following Dark Night of the Soul meditation:
Find a quiet and
If you like, play
some celestial or ethereal music in the background to set the
mood. Lie down and close your eyes. For a minute or two focus on
your breath. Feel your chest rise and fall.
Once you feel
connected with your body, shift your focus to creating an image
of yourself walking through a dark forest. Imagine that you are
looking above to see the dark tangled branches of the forest
obscure the sky.
What does the forest
feel like? Is it cold, hot, balmy, humid or icy? Can you smell,
feel or taste anything?
As you keep walking through the dark forest, the path in front
of you seems endless. The atmosphere feels deathly and
Suddenly, a white
wolf emerges from the trees. It looks at you with intelligent
and kind eyes and begins to accompany you as you walk. Your
feeling of loneliness lifts slightly as you enjoy the company of
your animal friend.
Suddenly, the wolf
beside you stops and stares intensely into the dark trees ahead
of you. You peer ahead but cannot see anything but dark shadows.
Suddenly, your wolf
companion lifts up his head and lets out a loud and haunting
The hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Just after the wolf
stops howling, a white light slowly emerges from deep within the
forest. At first, the light is tiny and like a pinprick. But as
you walk towards it, the light becomes bigger and brighter.
A feeling of hope
begins to fill you.
start jogging towards the light. You notice that the faster you
run, the bigger the light gets. The closer you move to the
light, the more open and expansive you feel. You pick up your
The feeling is
exhilarating! Far behind you, the white wolf howls again. A
feeling of wildness and freedom starts to warm you from the
As you continue
running, the light begins to consume your vision. The dark
forest begins to quickly fade.
As you look down, you
notice that your legs are the legs of a wolf - without knowing
it, you have experienced a total transformation - and it is
Picking up your pace,
you keep running and you let out a loud howl.
The piercing sound of
the howl dissolves all hopelessness, sadness, and darkness left
within you. The howl has completely purified you. All that
remains is pure light, love, hope, power, and peace.
You feel spacious and
You are free...!
To end this article, I'll
leave you with one of my favorite Dark Night of the Soul
David Whyte - a man who
understood the value of making peace with the darkness:
…Time to go into
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
The House of Belonging - Sweet